Built by John A. Syfrett who bought 150 acres in 1839. He probably built the house then. There is some evidence existing that the Syfrett's may have squatted on the land as early as 1837*.
If we did not have this information we would probably fairly well determine its age by its appearance. There are many very old houses across the south of this type. Two rooms wide with a hall between them, two rooms high and one room deep. Usually, an addition has been made to the back. The Hayes-Long Mansion is one of this type.
It is obvious Mr. Syfrett did not have the means of his neighbors, but he did the best he could with what he had.
We notice that the weather boarding cross the front is eroded, but not as much as the ends. This tells us the house has not been painted at all times and there has been sometimes when it did not have a porch or the siding had not been there from the beginning.
The building is smaller than its neighbors. When we go inside we see the hall has wood walls. The boards look like ship lap that was always used under porch roofs, so this suggests this hall may have been an open passage way at one time. The two side rooms are plastered. The stair case has a hand rail that seems to be of much higher quality wood and workmanship suggesting it is not original to the house. The present hand rail came from a house that was being razed in Columbus, Georgia.
The doors are smaller than average and also and have two vertical panels as do all the antebellum homes in our area except Great Oaks which has four panel doors. The doors are 6' â€“ 8" high which is today's standard. The down stairs ceilings are 10' and upstairs are 8'.
Great Oaks, the last built of the pre-war houses has 12' down stairs and 13' upstairs.
Since I made those observations and conjectures, Lawrence Pender II, who now owns the house and adjoining Pender's Store has given me a 9 page paper put together in 1993 by his late wife Jane Ludlum. It's a compilation of things she learned in visits with Miss Lucy Erwin and Patty Pender, Lawrences' Aunt and Mother who were grand daughters of JMF and Georgia Bryan Erwin. The following is an excerpt from the first page which pretty well confirms my observations and opinions. We will refer to it more as we go along. Jane was a very active member of the local historic society and did a lot of research on the houses of Greenwood. The booklet of the self guided tours of Marianna and Greenwood contains this information on the Greenwood houses.
The Erwin House (Excerpt from the Self Guided Tour Booklet)
Built in the 1830s by John A. Syfrett, the house at first did not have a porch and veranda. The house was a single room on each side of a hall upstairs and downstairs. The halls faced with wide board lumber were open with no doors. The rooms are of plaster. The halls, called a dog-run, had a staircase that was two-sided. It went up from the front and from the back.
In 1851 the house was sold to Mary Roberts, guardian for Hiram Roberts. It is said the Roberts were kin to Dr. Gorri, inventor of the ice machine. He stayed with them in the house. In 1852 the house was sold to Henry Bryan. Henry rented the store on the southwest corner of the yard known as The Erwin Store. Later the store was called Erwin and Hart. Henry Bryan lost the house. His daughter Sarah and her husband, Dr. Franklin Hart bought it for the highest bid in 1855. During this time the dog-run was enclosed and doors put in. The porches and verandas were added. The cornices in the master bedroom and parlor were brought by Mrs. Hart from her plantation in Georgia. In 1861 the house was sold to John M.F. Erwin. His portrait hangs in the parlor. His wife, Georgia Bryan Erwin, was the daughter of Elijah Bryan. The house had a veranda across the back of the house as well as the front. John M.F. Erwin added the dining room and the small room next to the dining room onto the house. To do this he removed the upstairs veranda on the back and the downstairs porch on the west side of the house. If you go out back and look up above the dining room you can see where the door once led out onto the veranda.
Lawrence Pender III and his family now live in the house. Lawrence is the principal of Sneads High School. His wife Kim teaches at Golson Elementary School and they have have two children, Lawrence and Isaac.
*From Florida's Antebellum Homes, by Wynne and Parks 2004.